Undocumented Immigrants Could Get Driving License in New York

Rights Groups protested at the Capitol to allow undocumented immigrants to apply for driver’s licenses without the fear of deportation.


One of the hurdles faced by undocumented immigrants in the United States is no access to a driver’s license. However, that could change in New York soon. Rights groups holding a peaceful protest at the Capitol on April 18 pushed for the legislation–the Driver License Access and Privacy Act–allowing undocumented immigrants to apply for a driver’s license.

“This is not the first time that a proposal has come forward extending driver’s licenses to more New Yorkers,” said Assemblyman Marcos A. Crespo, who is the sponsor of the bill, reported Democrat and Chronicle. “This is a better version. This is the right time, and this is the right thing to do for the state of New York for a number of reasons,” Crespo added.

Currently, 12 states and Washington DC allow illegal aliens to hold a driver’s license. The current bill in New York is almost a decade old and was brought to the state legislature again. If the bill is passed it would ensure that undocumented immigrants using their passport issued in a different country as an identification could get a driver’s license. They would also have to sign an affidavit. The bill is currently with the committee on transportation and was brought before the state assembly in January last year.

The bill “restricts what information can be retained and given out on those applying or holding standard drivers’ licenses,” according to the official document. By restricting giving out information about those who have driver’s licenses, the transport department would not have to report the undocumented immigrants to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Legalizing driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants would add $57 million in annual state and county revenues, according to the New York Immigration Coalition, an advocacy group. The money would be added through registration fees, sales taxes and gas taxes, as per the report.

In 2007, the then Governor Eliot Spitzer of New York had issued an executive order allowing illegal immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses by showing a foreign passport as identification. But the order was met with a roadblock and was shelved finally.

Critics, however, said that giving a license to immigrants will give them a back door to immigration. While Assembly members said it was a basic facility, according to News10. “Literally just trying to do what’s right. Go to church, go to the doctor, go to school, go to work. People are denying them that access,” Assemblywoman Crystal D Peoples-Stokes said.

According to Fiscal Policy Institute, 265,000 immigrants would get licenses if the law is signed. That estimate includes 500 licenses in Binghamton, 1000 in Utica, 2500 in Buffalo and 3000 in Rochester, the report said.

“The Assembly has been supportive of integrating people to become members of our communities,” said Michael Whyland, Communications Director for Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.

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